Sunday, October 20, 2013

First vacation

I don't update my blog because it's such a hassle to turn on many computer and then retrieve all my pics off of my phone or camera. I know, I know - first world problem (btw - I HATE that catch phrase). I finally just sucked it up and downloaded the app even though it doesn't let me format the blog the way I want it to look. Hopefully I'll be a little more diligent about updating this way.
After a year with all 7 kids at home we finally got a few free days to escape real life and head to the beach!  They have loved every minute of it and we are all dreading leaving tomorrow.  What can you say about a beach vacation?  We swam in the ocean and the pool, had dolphins swimming within 15 yards of us, built sand creations,  had arguments about whether or not we could bring living sea creatures home (the answer is no, in case you wondered) and ate more than was necessary. It's been a great long weekend.  Now we can endure months of answering the question - "when can we go back to the beach? "

Thursday, January 10, 2013

3 Months Home

I was sitting at dinner on Sunday night and realized that we had been home with the girls for exactly 3 months.  It seems absolutely crazy that that much time has passed. I, of course, had fully intended to post regularly about the ups and downs of transitioning to a family of 9 and a family with pre-schoolers again but - I had TOTALLY forgotten just how much work pre-schoolers are and how little free time is actually available.  I had also completely underestimated how messy 3 pre-schoolers could be and how many dishes and loads of laundry would be required to keep the family in some semblance of order.  To top it all off - my computer crashed (blue screen of death) the week we got home.  So much for updating the 'ol blog.  As seems to be a recurring theme here, we will just post a recap in pictures. 

On October 6th we boarded a flight from Bulgaria back to the good 'ol USA.  Our traveling party had doubled in size.
As stated in the previous post, "N" now known to all as Sara, was NOT in love with her brother and would have preferred staying in Bulgaria over sitting next to him on the flight home.  Too bad.
We had a 2 hour layover in Vienna on the way home.  They were already sick of flying - not a good omen since we still had a 9 hr flight to D.C. and then another short flight home.

Honestly, the flight home wasn't that bad.  Although it felt awful at the time.  The only kid movie available was Mirror, Mirror  which just doesn't hold the attention of 3,4, and 5 year olds - especially when it is in a language they don't understand.  The two younger ones slept a combined total of about 3 hours.  Sara didn't sleep at all.  That means that Eric and I didn't sleep either.  They didn't cry or throw too many tantrums and luckily we were seated behind a couple of moms who really didn't seem to notice the commotion behind them.  All that being said - we were SO glad to get home! All the kids were so excited to greet us but Joseph was just beside himself.  He is SUCH a good brother!
My mom had helped the kids make a "Welcome Home" sign to greet us as we walked in the door.
But life had certainly changed.  Within 12 hours of being home Eric had gone to Lowes to pick up these:
And install this on the pantry (which doesn't have a door):
As they explored their new home they felt the need to get into EVERYTHING!  All of a sudden our counters were covered in items that were labeled "don't touch" to the 3 newest additions.  (Happily this phase only lasted a week or two).  Nothing was sacred - especially not phones and ipods.

Jet lag sometimes got the best of us at the most awkward times,

But overall we were adjusting well to having new little ones enter into every aspect of our lives.

Luckily it was a warm fall because they absolutely LOVE playing outside!!!

 Katya - Age 3
 Sara - age 5 (although she turned 6 last month)
 Bethany - (age 4)

After months of searching we FINALLY found a van that would fit the bill. With 9 people in our family and a wheelchair, our needs are slightly different than a lot of families.  We knew what we wanted and luckily, with a lot of searching on Eric's part and a good dash of patience thrown in, we came across my beloved beast of a van. It is 8.5 feet tall and has about 120 square feet inside of it.  We can fit the whole family (and 1 extra), the wheelchair, and still have room for luggage.  I can stand up in it to buckle car seats.  It is huge but I LOVE it!

Before we knew it, Halloween was here.  With little sisters around, the middle schoolers felt no shame in dressing up and heading out to trick-or-treat with the family.

The girls were a little apprehensive at first but it only took a couple of houses to realize that this was a wonderful concept!  "Go to the door, say some words I don't understand, hold out my bag, stranger puts in a handful of candy.  Yes!!!"  We came home with WAY too much candy (and a dozen cupcakes).  Luckily that gate on the pantry still works great.  Candy locked up - check!

 November brought the celebration of a beloved Aunt's birthday.  We went duck-pin bowling and had a grand 'ol time, even if the scores were on the (very) low side.

 This little one (Bethany) would not keep her hands out of the ball return.  Those suckers come back fast - as she eventually found out.

She eventually lost the fingernail on this hand and it still looks a little funny.

We went out for Thai food after the bowling extravaganza - Charity was thrilled (sarcasm - she is the world's pickiest eater and, unfortunately for her, Eric and I don't cater to pickiness....) and the rest of us really did love it.
We headed downtown that same afternoon for a missionary convention that was in town.  The kids loved looking at all the different booths and we ran into several of our friends from church so it was a good way to end the day.

Katya was exhausted :)

We had an appointment with the International Adoption Clinic early in the month.  Everything looked fine on the outside but labs still had to be run.  I was NOT looking forward to getting 5 or so vials of blood drawn from each child but eventually I sucked it up and took them in.
 They did fine - lots of tears but no real drama.  As we were getting back in the van I realized that they had forgotten to do the TB pricks.  Guess how happy the girls were to go back to that awful place that makes you cry.  No amount of stickers was going to make that go well ;)

I plan on homeschooling the girls through Kindergarten (our school system only offers full-day Kindergarten which just doesn't work for me) and so I have been "evaluating" their "skills" through craft projects and games.  Our Thanksgiving projects turned out really cute and they loved hanging them on the mantle for everyone to admire.

Thanksgiving weekend is always a fun-filled but busy one.
 We watch the parade.

 The family comes over for a Thanksgiving meal.

(Hey look - Sara likes Michael now. Only took about a week at home before she figured out that he wasn't all that bad.)
After a full night of shopping for mom - the whole family heads to the local Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.

 They have a live nativity and if you are cute enough you can pet the animals (okay - so they let anyone do it  - but my kids are really cute!)

Last, but not least, on the agenda is picking out the Christmas tree.  Our next door neighbors joined in the fun this year (in order to avoid going to their older brothers' wrestling meet).  Charity was ticked that someone else's tree choice won out this year.

 The little girls knew all about Christmas trees and honestly had a good grasp of the whole Christmas season.  I'm not sure they had ever heard that it was for Jesus' birthday or not but they have picked up that by now and sound just like all the other sunday school kids their age when you ask them a question that is church related - they yell out "Jesus" :)
Why do we celebrate Christmas? - "Jesus"
Who does the Bible tell us about? - "Jesus"
How many books are in the Old Testament? - "Jesus"

Look at the love in this house :)

 Sara had dental work done at the end of the month.  She needed 4 teeth pulled, 3 crowns and several fillings so we had it done under anesthesia.  She did great and is anxiously waiting for those teeth to come in (they are the 4 front top ones).

We had family pictures taken by a friend of ours.  I don't know how he did it but somehow we got several good options to choose from.  He must be a miracle worker. Here is my favorite of the kids.
Sara is IMPOSSIBLE to get a good shot of....

We hosted the annual Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration for my step-dad's family for the second time this year.  Apparently Uncle Alan is also a miracle worker because he was able to get the whole crew together for a very good picture as well.

December starts with back to back birthday celebrations for Sara and Michael on the 7th and 8th.
We took Sara to get her ears pierced and out to lunch on the day of her birthday.  Our little drama queen actually did really well with the piercing - only a few tears. And she absolutely loves wearing them.  She is anxiously awaiting the day (January 18th) when she can take them out for a little while and try out some of the other pairs that she has received as gifts.

 Birthdays are the one time where I let the kids choose what we are eating for dinner.  Sara knew exactly what she wanted for her birthday - pizza, banitsa (a Bulgarian dish) and funfetti cake. Quite a combination but, whatever.  She loved being sung to and we didn't have to explain about blowing out the candles.  She knew exactly what to do and still beams anytime someone asks how old she is and she can answer "6". 

The day after Sara turned 6, Michael turned 12 - booooo!  (It's hard to believe my 1st baby is one year away from being a teenager.  I certainly am not old enough to have a child that old ;)  )  He chose Beef Carbonnade (Belgian beef stew) for his dinner with a White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake for dessert.  I love eating Michael's bday dinners but cooking them is an all day affair.

He continues his obsession with the Chicago Bears and Purdue and was thrilled to receive a "throw back" Matt Forte jersey and a fun Purdue winter hat as birthday gifts.

I finally got the little girls' hair cut.  We have been growing out bangs but I couldn't take it any longer. We removed about 7 inches from Sara's, 5 from Katya, and shaped up Bethany.  She is the one I caught a couple of times cutting her hair when we were in Bulgaria so it was pretty uneven. 

 She now looks a lot like Dora or maybe Boo from Monster's Inc. if we put in some pig tails. (She was in a staring contest with Mr. Snowman here.  I think she lost. Something about the snowman not having eyelids.)
We had our first significant snowfall on the first day of Christmas vacation.  The kids were getting dressed to go our by 7:30 a.m.  I convinced them to at least wait until 8:00 before waking up the rest of the neighborhood.

It always drives me crazy that you spend 30 minutes getting everyone ready to go outside and inevitably they are outside for 15 seconds and ready to come inside.  I think they just go out so that they have an excuse to ask for hot chocolate.

We had a great Christmas with my brothers and sisters at my mom's house on the 22nd and with Eric's side of the family on Christmas Eve.  The kids actually sat through the Christmas Eve service really well - even with little to no naps and all the excitement running through their little heads.  We ran into 2 families of friends that we met through our Ukrainian adoption at that service (we were actually at their church since it is closer to Eric's dad's house than our church is.)  They didn't know we had adopted again and so we had a nice few minutes catching up, exclaiming over how much all of our kids had grown/aged since we saw each other last and showing off our "sweet ride" to all of their kids.  Big families can fully appreciate my beast of a van.

Bethany's big honkin' candy cane

Uncle Chris teaching Joseph how to fly his new helicopter.

Papa and the girls

Christmas morning dawned bright and early with the big kids going in and waking up the little girls at 6:00 so that they could come downstairs.  We have a tradition of reading the Christmas story to the kids each year in our bed before going in to look at the tree and open presents.  This is going to get more hilarious each year as we all barely fit this year into our full-sized bed and the kids are just going to get bigger :)

The kids of course loved opening their presents - except for Sara.  She was ticked because apparently everybody else was getting better stuff than she was.  She was mad that the biggest boxes were not for her (not that she wanted what was inside once they were opened) and at one point told us that we could throw her new doll in the trash.  Charity asked if she could have it and Sara told her "no, trash."  I'm not kidding when I tell you that these girls have been spoiled by their former caretakers!  I'm glad they were loved and doted on but sheesh, give me a break already!  She eventually snapped out of it (when she realized pouting and crying weren't going to work on her mean parents - even on Christmas morning) and ended up happy with her new stuff (even the baby doll) but it definitely made for a, shall we say, memorable Christmas morning.

Okay - so there is a quick recap.  I will do a beginning of 2013 post soon - we have had 2 more birthdays already :)